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Poll: Modifying game consoles a no-no?

Matthew Crippen, a Cal State Fullerton student, was arrested on federal charges of modifying videogame consoles for profit. The 27-year-old pleaded not guilty and was released Monday after posting $5,000 bond. If convicted, Crippen faces up to 10 years in prison.

The feds say Crippen modified Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation consoles to play pirated disks, violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Federal prosecutor Mark Krause told KPCC that Crippen “advertised online and had a large clientele.” 

Bringing charges against such alleged pirates as Crippen is a divisive issue. One the one hand (I'll get to the other side in a bit), you have the companies that expend considerable resources developing and selling the games and understandably want to see robust enforcement of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In 2005, four commercial retailers with Pandora’s Cube, a Washington-area store that sold modified consoles pre-loaded with games, were each sentenced to a few months in prison.   

The console manufacturers are guarding not just the integrity of their products, but also their business models. If modifiers were merely specializing in improved performance of the product, the issue wouldn’t be so important to the console producers. Surely Ford and GM wouldn't go after the show “Pimp My Ride” for decking out their companies' cars with louder stereos and more powerful engines.

Pirated disks can be bought for $10 or less, while the real things (brand new, of course) fetch $50 to $75 a copy. Just by looking at this price difference, it's easy to see that for game and console makers, this is indeed a lucrative business easily threatened by pirated software. 

On the flip side, some wonder why console buyers aren’t allowed to upgrade systems that are bought legitimately for as much as $600 apiece. Then there's the more pressing issue over whether locking up an otherwise harmless 27-year-old for a decade is the best use of resources (though, judging by past cases, Crippen stands to receive a much lighter sentence if convicted).  

In the battle between the rights of the creator and the freedom of the owner, which side of the game are you on?

--Kevin Patra


Comments () | Archives (18)

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The DMCA should really not target someone who 'modified' the console. It should target people selling the actual software, and people distributing it. I two XBoxes, both purchased from stores, both are modded. One I have chalk full with my (purchased from stores) music collection, and the other holds 25 of the games (I also purchased) on the hard drive, so I don't have to worry about game discs. Unless this guy was doing what the Pandora's Cube thing was doing, having games preloaded on the console, then in my opinion, there is no law broken. It's the consumer's responsibility what they do with the modded console. Crippen was only providing a service for people who didn't know how to do it. It's not his responsibility if the customer pirates the software. The whole copyright and DMCA crap needs to end.


The ammount of people that would pay ~100 do have their systems modified, to than pay for pirated games are soo small there is no reason to get so uptight about it. Usualy, people who do these things will not spend the money on a full retail version and will most likely rent or buy used if not pirate. Eitherway, not alot of money going to the game maker.


t is outrageous that this guy could be arrested for modifying a game console that was no longer the property of the manufacturer. If he was selling pirated video games that would be another issue.

If these charges stand, then computer manufacturers could be held accountable for manufacturing a machine capable of playing pirated movies.

Once I pay for it it is mine to do as I feel like doing.


This is crap. First ebay takes down moders, than craigslist, now the government. If you are selling or prelaoding games, you should be put in jail, but just modifying a system that you own should not be illegal. Its like arresting someone for adding NOS to a car system because that person will definitely get a speeding ticket at one time or another. Plus modding does have legitimate purposes like homebrew and added functionality.


A dangerous thing to do. Imagine if other companies also managed to get these laws adopted to protect THEIR "business models".

Image being jailed for jail breaking your iphone. Or being jailed for owning a region free dvd player. Or being jailed for using non-original parts when you repaired your car because 'It breaks our business model" - as indeed it would, when the model involves selling over priced parts.

So here we have a harmless young man who could go to jail for 10 years, whereas there are murderers and rapists out in 3 or four.

Well done America. America, The Home Of The Brave (Corporations) and The Land Of The Free (Corporations).


I don't believe that modifing anything you own should be illegal, nor should it be if someone asks you to for a product they own. Automobiles are modified every day to have more horsepower, to go faster, it is up to the end user to decide to use the gains legaly or illegaly. Computers are modified to provide a greater range of use, again up to the end user if they decide to pirate software or not. This is just another case of corporate bullying because they found someone smarter than them, who can make their product better than they did.

Jon Healey

Folks, Crippen wasn't arrested because he modded his XBox. He stands accused of modifying consoles and selling them to others. That's nothing like jailbreaking your phone or pimping your ride. The debate here isn't whether the feds should crack down on people who mod their consoles in the privacy of their own homes. It's whether the feds should stop folks from modding consoles for profit.

Frank Zapato

He didn't sell pirated software..... How can you charge him?! This is a ridiculous abuse of power!


You know what he should've done when he saw the cops coming, jumped into his car for a high speed pursuit and run his car into a crowded restaurant...that way, he'll just get 5 years and get out in 6 months for good behavior.


So how much money do you think it took to put a team together for research and surveillance, put another team together to capture the guy, put another team of lawyers & judges together to prosecute? See, now aren't you glad to see your tax dollars at work here to keep low-life, scum-of-the-earth like a modder off the streets???


This is ridiculous and an utter waste of money and resources. Copyrights were not violated. This man is selling an completely legal service, not pirated video games. If the costumer later on decides to buy pirated games then it's the modifier's fault and he is in no way responsible. If I spend that much money on something I will do what I damn well ruddy please with it and that includes modifying it.

Jim mille

So lets help this guy


This guy sould not be sent to jail at all. What about the web site that will sell you a pre modded game system.

I know people who mod their systems just so they can keep the $70.00 disc put up and not get scratched.

You can buy a game and your kids leave them on the floor.... Guess what, you need to spend an other $70.00 because the people who made the game says you have to or never play it again.

This is great for the people who don't make a lot of money but try to do their best at getting their kids what they can.


I think it's all vanity. People should be able to "tint" their windows whenever they want. They DID buy that. However, without pirated games a modded console is just that. It's the age old problem over and over again. USA is running out of money, corporations are loosing their grip and have to re-invent the wheel of funding.
I'll tell you this much, putting harmless modder's in prison will only create a "criminal" and a better one at that. I think it's a waste of everyone's time.


LET HIM GO! LET HIM GO! He wasn't selling pirated software, just his services of exploitation! Thus, he wasn't doing anything illegal. Unless selling your services is illegal, that means that most gardeners should be arrested, along with poolmen, independent handimen, etc....


So will they now be arresting people for modding their cars?
If they are making faster and more dangerous.
Come to America and own an assault rifle but dont you dare modify your Wii because that makes you a menace to society.

Seems kinda odd to me..



People bought their consoles, own them, and can do whatever they want with them.

These DMCA charges are nothing less than orwellian pre-crimes. He put a legal item on a legal console but because the console owner might then choose a particular use of his console, out of many, that happens to be legal, the person who put the mod on is a criminal?

First: this should be a civil issue, not a criminal one. It should not be my taxes going to support this case but those of the IP owner who thinks they have a case and who would gain the damages.

Second: this further ameliorates our rights to property. I buy a console I can do whatever I want with it. The fact that if I mod it I might later use that mod to do an illegal act is irrelevant.

Charge people for doing the crime, not for enabling the crime that may or may not happen at a later time. This is like arresting ahardware store owner for selling a hacksaw, or a gun store for selling a gun.


Copyright has been getting insane, its time to restore sanity.


Wow, there are a lot of defendants for this. It is illegal, black-and-white, in the books, on the record, to circumvent anti-piracy protections. Strike one. He then did this FOR PROFIT. So, he broke the law, and then advertised that he would do this for a fee for others. Don't argue about how absurd this is or how it doesn't make sense. Write your congressman about why you think the Digital Millennium Copyright Act should be repealed.



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